As the New England Patriots go for a 19-0 season in Sunday's Super Bowl, here's a list of sports teams and athletes who fell agonizingly close to perfection:
...Lew Hoad: 1956
Hoad won the first three stages of the Grand Slam tennis tournaments and was heavily favored to win the fourth and then turn professional for a lucrative contract offered by Jack Kramer. In a stunning upset, however, he lost to fellow Australian Ken Rosewall in the United States Championships at Forest Hills, N.Y.
Karatantcheva back on track at the Charlie M Desert Classic - Leighton Ginn, Desert Sun
"I don't think about it. I'm living a second life. I feel like a newcomer again," Karatantcheva said... Anyone expecting a bitter, angry woman will be disappointed. The 18-year-old from Bulgaria laughs easily and speaks animatedly, although she tries to watch what she says. When speaking about her suspension, Karatantcheva speaks matter of factly about the incident. "I was accused of doing things I didn't do," Karatantcheva said.
...When Karatantcheva began serving her suspension, the first week was tough. "Then I just started practicing like normal, working on my game," Karatantcheva said. "Time went quickly. It was like yesterday when I found out I had two-year ban. I was crying, thinking 'What am I going to do? This is a long time.' Then I turn around, and I've been practicing and time has passed. It wasn't as tough as I thought. I actually thought it was easy, very easy."
...Karatantcheva is hoping she can play well in La Quinta and catch the eyes of the Pacific Life Open organizer and earn a wild card. Steve Simon, the tournament director, said they have eight for the main draw and six for qualifying. He certainly remembers Karatantcheva's debut in 2004. "We knew she was a rising talent when we first had her here for her first wild card," Simon said. "She played well here, and it was Maria (Sharapova) where she had the famous match on Stadium 2. Right there, we knew she had a lot of spunk and personality. She came onto the scene with a thundering roar."
Said one member of the media: “This should be over quick.”
And it was. Demonstrating a power game that was expected and steady nerves that were not, Lisicki dominated Davenport in the opening match of yesterday's USA-Germany showdown 6-1, 7-5 before 2,247 stunned spectators at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club.
“I have a hard time remembering the last time a match went so one-sided against me,” admitted Davenport.
...“Like Zina told me,” said Harkleroad, “just enjoy the moment because you never know (when you'll be back).”
Serbia's new keeper of national pride and morale,met cheering throngs at City Hall on the eve of key presidential elections – with a rock band playing "Simply the Best."
But Serb tennis star Novak Djokovic, a charmer so adored that he could possibly swing the vote – only swung the racket he used to win the Australian Open last week above his head. Some 12,000 Serbs went nuts. "Nole! Nole!" they shouted, using Mr. Djokovic's nickname.
Serbs may have been voting in tense elections Sunday between a future in the East or West. But no one wanted the miracle of four Serb players in a Grand Slam final spoiled by politics that hang heavily over Belgrade now.
...Opinion on Belgrade streets was typified by Ljubica Peric, a businesswoman who said, "We are called bad Serbs by the world. We are treated like we are all [Slobodan] Milosevic. Djokovic is sweet and funny. I've met Ivanova [Ivanovic]. She is ... a star from the heavens. We love her."
Obziler knew she had to defeat Chakvetadze in the final singles match of the tie to force a decisive doubles encounter, but despite winning the first three games of the match, she lost 6-4, 6-2. The Russians completed a 4-1 victory in the tie with a 6-0, 1-6, 6-4 win by Dinara Safina and Elena Vesnina over Pe'er and Obziler in the dead doubles rubber, meaning Israel now faces an April playoff tie to try and maintain its status among the elite eight teams in the World Group.
...Sharapova's teammate Chakvetadze was far less pleased with the Israeli fans behavior and completely lost her cool midway through the second set. In the sixth game of the set Chakvetadze began taunting the crowd with exaggerated celebrations after each point she won and infuriated the already frustrated Israeli following.
"It's a pity the crowd acted in such a way," Chakvetadze said after the match. "I've never played against such a crowd before. We didn't expect the fans to scream in between points. I don't expect the home fans to support me, but just to be a little more respectful."
Obziler completely refuted the Russian's claims. "Chakvetadze has obviously forgotten how her fans act when she plays at home," said the 34-year-old veteran, who had opened a 3-0 lead after breaking twice at the start of the match. "The fans backed me throughout the match and it was fantastic. I played good tennis, but she just had much more winners than me and I lost the momentum."
It was seen last September when Dudi Sela was carried forward by his supporters to beat Chile's Fernando Gonzalez, one of the best players in the world, propelling Israel into the Davis Cup World Group. And it was shown again on Saturday and Sunday during Israel's Fed Cup tie against Russia. It really is one of the most wonderfully positive examples of Israeli nationalism you can find.
...Indeed, when on Saturday afternoon I asked Maria Sharapova if she had been concerned about the security situation in Israel before arriving in the country she looked at me in the most quizzical manner, apparently not understanding the relevance of the question.
...Although Chakvetadze used the Israeli taunting to her advantage and swept Obziler aside, in her post-match press conference she accused the Israeli fans of having a lack of respect towards the players. "I expected the crowd to be noisy, but not like that," she told reporters. "Maybe they thought they came to a soccer match, but it is tennis. There was no respect [shown] to the players. Tennis is not so big here, so many people don't know the rules."
Israel loses to Russia in Fed Cup Singles tennis quarterfinals - Ha'aretz
The game ended in just two sets, with the Russian easily winning past Peer 6:1, 6:1, after repeatedly breaking the Israeli's serve.
"I know Shahar well," Sharapova said after the match, which saw a large and noisy turnout of Israeli supporters. "She encouraged the crowd to cheer louder, but it ended up being in my favor because it seemed like she felt that she couldn't win this match on her own."
The Indian captain, who joined the team early morning in the capital, said: “My ankle is still strapped a little bit. I can take the court, but in doing so, my ankle can suffer a permanent damage.
“As an athlete and as a captain, my job is to be honest to myself and everyone else in the team. I should be fair to my teammates. And when our team has so many options, why should I take the risk,” Paes said.
Monaco hit his left foot against a referee's chair while trying to reach a ball and had to be carried off the court.
``It looks pretty serious, I think it's unlikely (he will play Sunday),'' coach Francisco Martelli said.
Monaco, a member of the Argentine team selected to play Britain in the first round of the Davis Cup next week, was to play either top-seeded Fernando Gonzalez or Pablo Cuevas.
Brady fan Davenport leads U.S. in Fed Cup quarters vs. Germany - AP
Hey, even the tennis players want to get the tournament wrapped up in time to watch the Super Bowl.
With Lindsay Davenport playing two of the first three matches, that's entirely possible.
"We're trying so hard. Trying hard," Davenport said after Friday's draw. "Don't worry, that's been on my ear from my husband the whole time, 'What time do you think we'll be home? Don't have it come down to the doubles. I don't want you to play the doubles.' No, no, we're going to work our best to make sure that happens."
In Davenport's case, there's a pretty good reason why.
"I'm like a psycho Tom Brady fan," she said. "Oh, my gosh, he's like my dream guy."
Murray will not be the only big name missing next weekend. The Swiss begin their attempt to recapture World Group status against Poland without Roger Federer; Rafael Nadal will not play for Spain in Peru.
“I’m afraid it’s the modern way,” said Lloyd, mindful that Argentina have won nine of their past 10 home ties 5-0. “Many of the top players are so consumed with their rankings and individual performance that playing in a team competition goes out of the window. Similarly, the public struggle to get a handle on how the Davis Cup works and when the two teams get to the final it is hardly construed as a big deal.”
At the Australian Open, Lloyd spoke to fellow captains Patrick McEnroe of the US and Sweden’s Mats Wilander about how the World Group competition should be held every two years in a two-week format in the autumn, with the defending champions acting as hosts and ranking points awarded. On Friday, Etienne de Villiers, the ATP’s executive chairman, said: “As part of our wide-reaching changes to the tour for 2009, we are looking to award ranking points for Davis Cup participation and expect a decision in the near future.”
Before Andy Murray made his unsurprising withdrawal from Great Britain's Davis Cup team last week, the best chance the British had of avoiding a humiliation in Buenos Aires next weekend - a hammering was always on the cards - was if it had been emphasised to the hosts that this was a Scottish team rather than a British one. Now, with the promotion of the Englishman Alex Bogdanovic in place of the injured Scot, they don't even have that as a defence.
...As far as the Argentine public were concerned they were always playing England, and no one in South America seems particularly keen to make the distinction.
...Juan Monaco, the Argentina No 2, left them in no doubt about the kind of reception they can expect to receive from day one in the 14,000-capacity Estadio Parque Roca, when he said: "We know that the Falklands War is something of the past and has nothing to do with a tennis tournament, but sadly there are some Argentines who don't forget and are resentful towards England."
...Coincidentally, the biggest thrashing a British Davis Cup team have received in the last 30 years was at the hands of Argentina in Buenos Aires in 1981 when they lost 5-0 and failed to win a single set.
Captain's anguish as Murray delivers abdominal kick to national cause - Jon Henderson, The Guardian
Lloyd refused to criticise Murray for his decision to pull out, citing a right-knee problem, but there was the unmistakable sound of words being delivered through gritted teeth when he spoke to Observer Sport from the team's training camp in Chile.
...Murray's commitment to play the tie was the main reason Lloyd managed to persuade the Lawn Tennis Association to finance the camp. Other team members, including Murray's older brother Jamie, made sacrifices to accommodate it in their schedules. Now the considerable expense of the camp seems profligate given the near impossibility of what lies ahead. Jamie Murray was as surprised as anyone, Lloyd said, when word came through that Murray had posted news of his withdrawal on his website.
...'It must be quite a bad injury for him to have pulled out eight days before the tie in Buenos Aires started,' said Lloyd in what could be taken as a reference to Murray's having waited until 24 hours before last year's Wimbledon before withdrawing with a wrist injury.
...Just one of the many facts that points to the parlousness of British men's tennis at the moment is that, officially, Tim Henman is our fourth-best player even though he retired last September and has not played a meaningful match since.
Argentina v Great Britain: Murray's priorities clear - Ronald Atkin, The Independent
Not surprised, but still shocked, particularly at the way the information was delivered to him. The rest of the British squad have been based over the past week in Chile, at Viña del Mar, competing, or attempting to do so, in the ATP event there. Murray's agent, Patricio Apey, is Chilean and had helped arrange things for Lloyd and his team, so it seemed natural when Apey rang him on Wednesday to discuss how things were going.
"Then Patricio said he had something else to tell me," said Lloyd, "and I knew straightaway what it was going to be... "I believe he would have reacted just like Lleyton Hewitt did in the Davis Cup, when he beat Gustavo Kuerten in Brazil. I was really looking forward to seeing what he was made of.["]
...Like Murray, Lloyd has a right-knee problem, but much more serious and urgently requiring a replacement. A security team will guard the British squad in case of trouble, and Lloyd quipped: "I have told the others the guards' job is to throw a cordon round me because I can't run."
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